The Biography of the Knight of Yemen, Obliterator of the People of Infidelity and Commotion, Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan
Sīrat fāris al-Yaman wa mubīd ahl al-kufr wa al-miḥan Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan (The biography of the Knight of Yemen, obliterator of the people of infidelity and commotion, Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan) is a popular Arab folk epic. It is loosely based on the life of Sayf Ibn Dhi Yazan, who ruled Yemen in the late sixth century. Yemen became involved in the Persian-Byzantine struggle for control of the trade between India and the Mediterranean and, before it became Islamic, was for a time a Persian protectorate. This popular sirah (biography; here it means Arabic epic of folk literature) is partly a historical narrative of the period and partly a fantasy about the heroic Sayf. The work has been described as the “fundamental piece of literature to the Arab world,” equivalent to Beowulf for the Anglophone peoples. References to the work date back to the late 15th‒16th centuries. The stories of this romance are set in Yemen, Ethiopia, and Egypt and follow the characters as they travel through these countries. The authors of the work remained anonymous, which provided them with the protection they needed to voice the criticisms of the Mamluk Empire, then the power in Egypt, in the work. The 17-volume epic offers a portrait of an exemplary Muslim ruler, addresses many topical social questions, and incorporates myths and legends of Perso-Arabic literature. This copy of the work, in the collection of rare books of the Oman Library at the Middle East Institute, is from the first edition published in 1877.
al-Maṭbaʻat al-Maḥmūdīyah, Egypt
Title in Original Language
سيرة فارس اليمن و مبيد أهل الكفر والمحن سيف بن ذي يزن
Type of Item
17 volumes ; 23 centimeters
- Rudi Paret, Siirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan: An Arabic Folk Epic, translated with commentary and annotation by Gisela Seidensticker-Brikay (Cologne: Koppe, 2009).
Last updated: May 31, 2017